The Embarrassment of Riches

(Simon Schama) There’s the Amsterdam dutch And the Zaandam dutch And the Rotterdam dutch And the God-damn dutch… However, despite their slightly dodgy record in slave driving, tulip speculating, trade finance and robust colonization, this admiring and admirably crammed history of culture in the Dutch Golden Age is a delight. The ‘Burgemeester van Delft’ in Jan Steen’s painting on the cover is a dead ringer for Jeffrey Jones (Mr. Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

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The Long Goodbye

(Raymond Chandler) I shaved and made some coffee and then parked on the settee to start reading this thing and then I got up and went back to the bathroom and stripped off my tie and shirt and sloshed cold water in my face with both hands and then went on reading and then fixed some more coffee and cooled it down with a slug of scotch and then I went out on the back porch and smoked a cigarette and that’s more or less where I got to.

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Human Accomplishment

(Charles Murray) A subversive book which purports to rank the top 20 men and women (mostly men) in the arts and sciences on the basis of historiometry. Awash with Bell curves, Lotka curves, and arbitrary methodology, it fascinates but does not convince: one imagines  oneself drawing a silly graph on the blackboard and quoting J. Evans Pritchard.      

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The Minoans

Image courtesy of Eric Gaba

( by J. Lesley Fitton) For over 40 years Sir Arthur Evans had a patent on “Minoan” civilisation on Crete and tended to make it up as he went, albeit subconsciously. This rather sober book puts the pots and pans and ‘restored’ frescoes in a slightly less romantic context.

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The Lost One – A life of Peter Lorre

(Stephen Youngkin) Standard, almost obsessively detailed reference book on the whispering menace. Peter gets to stroll the green lanes of Paradise for his work in M, Mad Love, Crime and Punishment, Strange Cargo, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and Beat the Devil. He gets censured for taking work away from actors of certain nations and ethnicities, e.g., Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Russian, Dutch and Irish (although we doubt the authenticity of that last one, from Beat the Devil).

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